Legislation requiring mandatory ballot audits by county canvassing boards has been filed in the Alabama House of Representatives.
House Bill 457 (HB457), sponsored by State Rep. Debbie Wood (R-Valley), would require each county's canvassing board to conduct a post-election audit after each county and statewide general election to determine the accuracy of the originally reported results of the election.
If passed, the bill would require each county's canvassing board to conduct a post-election manual audit consisting of a manual tally of all ballots in at least one randomly selected race that appeared on the ballot in at least 20% of polling locations chosen at random.
Random selection may occur by drawing lots or computerized random selection such that all voting locations and races are included in the selection method.
"I was in a very close political race where the outcome was determined by seven votes," Wood said in a statement. "Everywhere I went voters would tell me that it was their vote that made the difference. I agreed with all of them because I believe every legitimate vote counts. In order to keep constituents involved in the voting process we must have accurate elections. This bill enables a method to ensure accountability to our candidates and our voters."
Angela Shepherd is a Lee County Resident and former poll watcher who assisted in bringing the legislation forward.
According to Shepherd, her time working in elections, in which she tested a voting machine before last year's primary that accepted a copied ballot. The voting machine company, Election Systems & Software, said if the ballot had been inserted during a "live, controlled election environment," the ballot would have been caught and not been counted.
"I found out we were one of six states that do not do post-election audits," Shepherd said. "John Merrill did a pilot audit for this past election. It was three counties, three precincts and two races. So, it ended up being something like 1,389 ballots, which really, in comparison to a-million-and-a-half that were cast, It doesn't really seem like a good audit."
She continued, "Everybody's been screaming, 'get rid of the machines.' Well, we realized that's not working, and it's not going to be that way for I don't know how long. So let's try to figure out a way we can kind of go somewhere in the middle. And we felt like the audit would be a great place to try to get a bill passed."
Robert Garris, a Lee County Attorney and former Lee County election manager, also assisted in pushing the bill.
"Most other states have some version of a post-election audit, and those are put in place to make sure that machine-counted totals are accurate and reliable," Garris said. "These kinds of post-election audits are recommended by the voting machine vending companies.
Garris said his experience talking to diverse groups in the state reassured him that there is a lack of trust in the state's current system and that HB457 could restore some confidence in that system.
"I don't think we have encountered any negative feedback from any lawmaker that we've presented the bill to," Garris continued. "Everyone pretty well, I think, understands the importance of it. There's a lot of mistrust and a lot of misinformation and a loss of voter confidence in the state."
He concluded, "I've had an opportunity to speak all over the state to many different groups, people with different opinions on elections from one end of the spectrum to the other. But one thing they do all agree on is that there is a distrust in the results delivered by the electronic ballot counting machines because we aren't checking the results these machines delivered."
HB457 was filed on Friday and assigned to the House Constitution, Campaigns and Elections Committee.
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